To help zap sun spots and dark patches, tranexamic acid is the powerhouse ingredient you're about to see everywhere
From hyaluronic to lactic and glycolic, chances are you’ll already have an acid toner or acid exfoliating liquid in your routine. But that’s not to say you shouldn’t make room for one more. Enter tranexamic acid, the new powerhouse ingredient that promises to treat pigmentation caused by acne scarring and sun exposure.
You might be familiar with tranexamic acid as tablet medication to reduce excessive bleeding ( heavy period people , we see you), but it’s more recently been used in skincare, most commonly as a serum - unlike other acids which you'll find in toners and peels.
Tranexamic acid has a powerful anti-inflammatory action used to treat hyperpigmentation and melasma. “Tranexamic acid reduces the production of melanin, the pigment that makes our skin darker and can cause discolouration,” says aesthetic doctor Dr Pamela Benito.
It's safe to wear in the sun (also SPF at all times, just sayin') and can be used both morning and night. Look for two to five per cent tranexamic acid in your products for it to be worthwhile, says Dr Benji Dhillon, co-founder of the Define Clinic .
Once it’s firmly ensconced in your routine you should see a difference between two and three months, says Dr Dhillon. The good news is there are no known side-effects.
Unlike some skincare which doesn’t react well with others ( retinol , we’re looking at you), tranexamic acid is one of the friendliest ingredients out there and pairs especially well with vitamin C and kojic acid, which are also effective known pigment brighteners. "Combining it with vitamin C or kojic acid maximises its brightening power, ensuring you get the most out of the ingredient. Also, if you are already using a hydroquinone product for skin lightening, you can add a product with tranexamic acid and potentially see even better results," says Dr Benito.
Is tranexamic acid suitable for pregnancy?
“Women who are pregnant often experience dark spots due to an overproduction of melanin,” says Dr Benito. “While tranexamic acid can help reduce this discolouration, due to the systemic absorption following topical administration of tranexamic acid, it is not recommended during pregnancy and avoidance might be the safest option.”
Our pick of the best tranexamic acid skincare
The Inkey List Tranexamic Acid Overnight Treatment, £14.99 for 30ml
This is The Inkey List’s most expensive product offering, but compared to many of the items on our bathroom shelves it’s still a steal. It’s a brightening overnight mask with a gel-like formula that contains two per cent tranexamic acid along with two per cent acai berry extract to promote even skin tone and two per cent vitamin C derivative for extra brightening and anti-oxidant power.
SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense Serum, £85 for 30ml
At the other end of the price spectrum is SkinCeuticals’ Discoloration Defense Serum. It contains 1.8 per cent tranexamic acid (Dr Dhillon recommends a minimum of two per cent, but given that many other products don't even list their percentage of tranexamic acid, we think that this is still very much worth a go) as well as five per cent niacinamide which has restorative qualities and sulfonic acid which delivers gentle exfoliation to encourage a more even skin tone.
Joanna Vargas Bright Eye Hydrating Mask, five for £48
Yes, you may look a bit like a superhero when you don this mask, but it’s more than worth it. The cooling mask deeply hydrates parched skin and leaves your delicate under-eye plumped and sooth with an even tone.
Clé de Peau Beauté Concentrated Brightening Serum, £135 for 40ml
We know this tranexamic acid is rather on the pricey side, but Clé de Peau Beauté’s devotees love the brand for a reason, and it’s easy to see why with this serum. It was formulated to diminish dullness and decolourisation and adds a very luxe element to your skincare regime.
Murad Replenishing Multi-Acid Peel, £48 for 100ml
This powerful liquid exfoliator is host to five acids including tranexamic to brighten the skin. Other acids such as glycolic and lactic are also included along with holy basil to calm and replenish the skin. Suddenly £48 doesn’t sound so expensive when you consider all the ingredients!